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What is a Duvet Cover?

Written by Tuck Staff

Prevalent in Europe, duvets and duvet covers are not as readily found in American bedding stores as comforters. Among uninitiated shoppers and even sales people, the term “duvet” is often mistakenly used to refer to a duvet cover and the term “comforter” is often applied to duvets.

This article seeks to dispel some of the confusion surrounding duvets and duvet covers. To eradicate misconceptions, we’ll start by explaining the differences between duvets and comforters. Once we’ve established what a duvet is, we’ll take a closer look at duvet covers.

First, What is a Duvet?

Originating in Europe, duvet is a French term meaning “down”, or the fine, soft insulating fibers on the underbelly of young birds. Traditionally, duvets were filled with down and feathers, but you can now find them with a wider variety of fills, such as synthetic fabrics and natural wool. Duvets are placed on top of bedding to act as a thermal insulator on chilly nights.

Especially within the U.S., the terms duvet and comforter are often used interchangeably. However, the duvet is a special type of bedding that differs from comforters in several key ways.

Comforters refer to a single piece of bedding material; duvets include an insert and a cover. Comforters tend to be machine washable. A duvet cover is also machine washable, but not the duvet insert, which should always be professionally cleaned. It’s possible to substitute a duvet insert with a comforter by placing your comforter inside a duvet cover. Comforters should be used with a top sheet, but a duvet is a standalone bedspread and doesn’t require a top sheet or any other bedding accessories.

What You Need To Know About Duvet Covers

Often referred to as simply a duvet, a duvet cover is a protective casing that fits over a duvet. Much like a pillowcase for a pillow, the duvet cover acts as a hygienic barrier against stains, sweat, oils, and spills.

Common Materials

Cotton: a soft and fuzzy staple fiber that makes up the protective casings, known as bolls, which surround the seeds of cotton plants. These fibers are often available as short staple (shorter than 1 1/8?), long staple (between 1 1/8? and 1 1/4? long), and extra long staple (1 3/8? to 2? in length) fibers. The most common types of cotton are Egyptian, Pima, Upland, and Flannel. Flannel is made from combed cotton.

Linen: Linen is an all-natural fiber that’s derived from flax plants. It has the advantage of being more durable and absorbent than cotton while also being exceptionally breathable and lightweight.

Bamboo Rayon: Although created using raw bamboo pulp, bamboo rayon is the product of a chemical process during which bamboo pulp gets transformed into a synthetic fiber. At this point, no original trace of the natural bamboo is left. It shouldn’t be confused with mechanically produced bamboo fiber, which is typically made using a process known as retting.

Polyester: A plastic-based synthetic fiber that’s also known as polyethylene terephthalate. It’s a popular fabric choice because it’s both chemical and wrinkle-resistant. Polyester dries more quickly than cotton and is less likely to fade.

Blends: These are fabrics made by blending different types of materials. This might be done to achieve a certain level of durability or to create material with better insulation or warming abilities.

Organic Material: This refers to materials created by using non-genetically modified plants (or non-GMOs). These materials are also free of any synthetic chemicals or toxins, particularly those found in fertilizers or pesticides.


Percale: Percale weave, also known as plain weave, is a term used to describe tightly woven fabric that’s created using a strict “one over, one under” weaving style. The result is material that’s soft to the touch with a matte finish. It’s a weave style most commonly used for bed covers.

Sateen: Sateen is created by floating warp yarns over weft yarns, often in a “four over, one under” weaving style. Unlike percale’s matte finish, sateen fabric has a distinct high shine that’s often compared to satin or silk.

Twill: Twill fabrics are by passing the weft thread under one or more warp threads and then under one or more warp threads at a time. They’re then dropped to create a step (or offset) between the rows which gives twill its unique diagonal appearance.

Flannel: Flannel can either be a plain or twill weave. The flannel gets combed to raise the nap (link) and hide the weave. The process softens the material and creates a more insulating fabric.

Satin: Satin fabrics are created by passing the warp thread over a weft thread several times while going under once. The result is a fabric that’s similar to sateen, with a very silky and shiny front and a dull back.

Jersey: Jersey fabrics are knitted together instead of woven. That means the material consists of one long thread rather than a series of threads like percale or sateen woven fabrics. Jersey is also much more warming and stretchy, with a cozy, soft texture.

Benefits of a Duvet Cover

The importance of pairing a duvet cover with your duvet cannot be understated. For added protection and easier cleaning, you may even benefit from using a duvet cover with your comforter, even though it already has one built in.

We’ve outlined the most attractive benefits of using a duvet cover with your duvet or comforter below.

  • Easy to clean. Many duvets and comforters require dry cleaning and special maintenance. Using a duvet cover helps protect them from spillage and damage, reducing the frequency with which they need to be cleaned.
  • Inexpensive. While comforters and duvets themselves can be quite expensive, duvet covers typically cost much less. With a duvet cover in place, you will be able to extend the life of your comforter or duvet and have to replace them less often over time.
  • Personalization. You can swap out duvet covers easily to give your bedding a makeover. Duvet covers come in a virtually limitless array of colors and designs, so you can easily tweak the style or color scheme of your bedroom.
  • Replace top sheet. With a duvet cover, you can eliminate the need for a top sheet. A duvet cover provides a light, soft, hygienic barrier between sleeper and duvet. Many sleepers prefer duvet covers to top sheets because they are held in place, while top sheets tend to get shoved to the end of the mattress.
  • Fabric benefits. Choosing a quality duvet cover allows you to access some of the benefits of the fabric. For example, bamboo duvets are naturally hypoallergenic and can help minimize allergy symptoms.

Additional Resources

If you’d like to learn more, please visit one of the articles linked below.

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